Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  


Home

Today's Word

Subscribe

Archives



Jan 25, 2016
This week’s theme
Words from mythology

This week’s words
autolycan
herculean
titan
siren song
bacchant

Autolycus
Shakespearean Autolycus selling his wares (detail)
Art: John Cawse (1779-1862)

Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

The word myth is from Greek mythos, meaning a story, legend, myth, etc. Mythologies are full of stories with an incredible cast of characters and plots. After all, when the only limit is imagination, why let yourself be restrained by the laws of physics?

This week we’ll see five characters from Roman and Greek mythologies who became words in the English language.

We start with a word coined after a character from Greek mythology who had the gift of invisibilia: Autolycus. If he had a sister, his parents Hermes and Chione would have named her Hermione.* Well, enough with the sis fuss.

On to this week’s words.

*Maybe not. That name was already taken by Menelaus and Helen for their daughter.

autolycan

PRONUNCIATION:
(o-TOL-uh-kuhn)

MEANING:
adjective: Characterized by thievery or trickery.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Autolycus, the son of Hermes and Chione in Greek mythology, who was skilled in theft and trickery. He was able to make himself (or things he touched) invisible, which greatly helped him in his trade. Shakespeare named a con artist after Autolycus in A Winter’s Tale. Earliest documented use: 1890.

USAGE:
“In a disarming note at the beginning of the book, Adams offers an apology for his autolycan procedures.”
Times Literary Supplement; Jun 5, 1981.

“His art was Autolycan, snapping-up, catching the mean minnows of the commonplace when they were off their guard.”
Anthony Burgess; Tremor of Intent; W.W. Norton; 1966.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind. -William Somerset Maugham, writer (25 Jan 1874-1965)

A.Word.A.Day by email:

Subscribe

"The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace."

The New York Times

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2017 Wordsmith